Starseed Yoga & Wellness
Jessica 'Sunshine' Klein
Asteya, non-stealing, is the third Yama in Patanjali's Ashtanga (eight limbs) or Raja (royal/king) Yoga. Non-stealing, along with nonviolence, truthfulness, continence and non-greed make up the five Yamas. These are the ethical codes of Yoga that are outlined for practice before asana (the poses). See, the poses are only 1/8 of Patanjali Yoga. We begin with yama (ethical restraints) and niyama (ethical internal observances) to evaluate our relationships to ourselves, the world we live in and to others around us.
Patanjali Yoga Sutra 2.37: To one established in non-stealing, all wealth comes. (translation by Reverend Jaganath Carrera)
According to Sri Swami Satchidananda (my guru's guru) there are 5 types of interactions:
1) a person who takes 100% and gives nothing back = thief
2) a person who takes 100% and gives 50% back = debtor
3) a person who takes 50% and gives 50% back = fair businessman
4) a person who takes 50% and gives back 100% back = righteous man
5) a person who takes nothing and gives 100% back = saint
From commentary on The Bhagavad Gita in The Living Gita by Sri Swami Satchidananda...
"Friends are friends; enemies are enemies. How is it possible to see sinner and saint the same? You must go beyond saintliness and sin, beyond friend and enemy. Something is common in them all. Everybody has a clean Self, the image of God. Each is also an expression of the same God. You can perceive that divine element pervading everywhere, functioning through every mind and body. When you do that, you'll always recognize the Self that is common to everybody and everything. That means you go beyond the so-called sinner and saint."
Equanimity...treat everyone equally. There are only two people in the world, you and God in different names and forms. How would you like to be treated? Can the way I treat myself and others be a form of stealing?
Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.33: By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and equanimity toward the non-virtuous, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.
According to Patanjali there are four locks and keys to use in any situation to maintain peace of mind. The "locks" are the situations, puzzles or challenges we face daily; the "keys" help the mind retain undisturbed calmness. Of course, this is a practice! Perhaps the most difficult concept to grasp is equanimity. How do I treat a bank robber, the gas attendant and my mother the same? How can I see everyone in my life as my teacher? When we clear the lens of ignorance and we can clearly see the Self (which is the same in all beings), and we no longer wish to cause trouble or upset to anyone, even those who we "think" are non-virtuous. Asteya comes into play when we rob ourselves the ability to maintain our peace. Always ask, what are the intentions? Will this disturb my peace? Here are the locks and keys...
1) friendliness toward the happy
2) compassion for the unhappy
3) delight in the virtuous
4) equanimity towards the non-virtuous
"The sense of equality is the greatest thing in the world. People go mad after shadows; very few are mad after the invisible (the subtle). True madness (for God) is very rare, it being found only in one among a lakh (100,000) or two. Other people run mad after sixteen things in twentyfour minutes. "I want this, I want that; this is different, that is different." Such is their mad talk. Entertaining various motives is madness. Greatness is madness. Everyone has one sort of madness or another. Thousands of people possess houses, diamond jewels, gold and property. They did not bring these with them at birth, nor will they take these with them at death." - Sri Swami Nityananda
In what ways do I steal from others besides taking material things? i.e. time, attention, power, confidence. People steal when they feel lacking in some way. In what ways do I steal from myself? i.e. lack of concentration, unable to reach goals, self-sabotage. When we think negatively and put ourselves down we enter into ignorance of the true Self and we steal strength from ourselves, while empowering the ego. In what ways do you self-sabotage yourself? Perhaps you give up easily on diets, difficult relationships or exercise routines? How many things do you do because you think you have to? This is also stealing from ourselves by holding onto a belief system that is false. False ego believes success means physical fulfillment of an unending stream of desires; "I have to do it."
"When you practice non-stealing, you develop the knowledge that you already have everything you need or want within yourself. You recognize that although your physical body may feel lacking at times, if you can turn to your spiritual body for what you need, your needs will always be supplied from within yourself. The only way to obtain this complete feeling in yourself is to connect your physical and spiritual bodies by ethical practice. Once you realize that you can depend on your spiritual body to supply all your needs, there is no further compulsion to steal." - Alice Christensen, Yoga of the Heart, p. 80
The ultimate form of stealing occurs within, in unchecked mental conversation. Fluctuations of the mind or concentration can therefore be seen as self-torture and the self-destructive attitude usually goes unnoticed. The practice of asteya helps us ground ourselves in righteous activity, while helping us escape from being blown about by the wind of impulse. Going back to Patanjali's Yoga Sutra 1.2 Yogas chitta vrtti nirodha (Yoga calms the fluctuations of the mind-stuff). In essence the practice of asteya on and off the mat, are the practice of Yoga.
"Desire is a natural primitive feeling. The world runs on desire: the desire to live, to mate, to eat and to protect one's territory. Every breath you take is an expression of your desire for life. Yogic literature considers the creative cycles of the entire universe to be based upon the attraction - the mutual desire - between male and female principles of consciousness. What connects desire to stealing is the physical body's compulsion to fulfill desire at any cost, which means taking from someone else - or yourself. When you are practicing the ethic of non-stealing, it is important to closely observe your desires and the actions you take to fulfill them. Desire can then become an important tool in reaching your goal." - Alice Christensen, Yoga of the Heart, p. 83
"The most compelling definition of Yoga is in the Bhagavad Gita, "Yoga is the severance from union with pain." As the Buddha said, everyone wants to be happy and to get out of suffering. So that's the motivation. On one level, there's really not much difference between a seeker and a non-seeker. Everyone wants to be happy and avoid pain. The yogi has found his or her material life to be lacking in being able to deliver lasting happiness. So, there's no place else to look in the outside world and the only other place to look is within yourself: to know the knower, the person who is seeking." - Reverend Jaganath Carrera, The Enlightenment Paradox, Integral Yoga Magazine, Winter 2013, p. 18
Let's consider Lord Buddha's Four Noble Truths (speaks about liberation from action or external events)
1. Suffering is inevitable due to disease, old age, birth and death
2. Suffering arises from craving
3. Suffering ceases when attachment to cravings cease
4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path
When we deny who we are, we dive into ignorance and suffering is inevitable. The only four types of suffering that cannot be avoided are disease, old age, birth and death. When we deny our birthright to realize this truth about who we are, who the Self is, we are stealing from ourselves by taking time and energy away from more fulfilling physical, mental, or spiritual activities. All Yamas (restraints) lead to the knowledge of the true Self.
Final Reflections on Asteya from Swami Karunananda...
1) Do I take things that do not belong to me?
2) Do I use things that do not belong to me without asking?
3) Do I present ideas of others as my own?
4) Do I steal time of others by a) being late, b) being unprepared for meetings/appointments, c) not following through with commitments?
5) Do I steal from others by being possessive in relationships or being emotionally imposing?
6) Do I expect others to clean up after me?
7) Do I receive each breath with gratitude and serve as best as I can in every moment?
Find rhythm. Share love. Be happy.